I discovered this TV show about a year ago and since then it has altered my views on the world and the people of this world. Back then I was addicted to watching YouTube videos on social experiments and so it was by chance that I found out about it. Immediately I began binge-watching all the What Would You Do? episodes I could find on YouTube.
What Would You Do? is (I think) a pretty popular TV show in America on ABC News. (I’m assuming it’s popular because most people who were featured in it happened to know about it, but I’m not sure since I’m no American anyway). So basically what they do is that they choose a location and a scenario, then plant some actors and hidden cameras in the chosen place and see how people react to the scenario, whether they choose to get involved and to what degree they get involved, or maybe if they just opt to stay silent or walk away. Sometimes they bring in social psychologists or other professionals to analyse the people’s behaviour as well.
They have a mountain of scenarios, some unimaginable, others unfortunately common in everyday lives, but most are painfully relatable. For example, teenagers verbally abusing a fat lady at the beach. A mom forcing her hungry child to go on a diet with just salad for lunch. A veteran unable to pay for his groceries at the supermarket. A rude customer abusing an employee with Down syndrome. A guy/girl spiking his/her girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s drink. Teens pressuring friend to take steroids. A woman taking advantage of a blind man. Placed in these situations, what would you do?
Sad to say, I have no idea. I wish I could say that Of course, if I were to witness any of these situations, I’d definitely be the one stepping up and getting involved. I wish I could say with certainty that I would be one of those good samaritans who’d willingly take out their cash to pay for someone else’s groceries, or those outspoken women who valiantly prevented the abuse of another in the face of someone bigger and stronger than them. But when I think about it, each time I was given the opportunity to do something for a stranger, simple or not, I had always hesitated. And each time, either someone else beat me to it, or I just decided not to do it after all.
So it is with admiration and awe that I watch these videos. I marvel at how these people can be so:
(see 2:03-3:03, 6:00-7:25 and 8:33 onwards)
(see 8:03 onwards)
(see 4:14-6:00 compared to 13:04-14:04)
Occasionally the people who intervene end up sharing their own stories – that they’ve been through similar experiences, or know people who have been through them. Isn’t it amazing how all these people, people we merely spare a glance for when we pass them by along the pavements, can turn out to be so big-hearted (or sometimes so cold-hearted), from such diverse backgrounds, and with such deep, sometimes painful history? Too often we take one look at someone – how they dress, how they walk, how they talk, who they’re with – and think we have them figured out. But we don’t. They might be someone deeply passionate about racial equality. Someone who has struggled with accepting a gay son. Someone who went through teenage pregnancy alone. Someone who has spent majority of her life feeling unconfident about her body. Someone whose brother smoked and died from lung cancer. Someone whose child was abducted. And they all have something meaningful to share – their lessons learnt.
We never know all these until we start talking about the true issues concerning our society today, which is what I believe this show does. Watching this, I’ve realised one thing: Human beings have so much power over each other, and we don’t even realise it. Someone else’s opinion can drastically change the way you see yourself. Someone else’s shared experience can give you immeasurable comfort. Someone else’s pitiable plight could upset you and evoke strong emotions. Someone else’s manipulation and their words. Or their empathy and their hug.
It’s such a simple concept, yet one that is hard to grasp, and one that is not often utilised well. Many who understand it use them in bad ways: faking handicap to beg for more money, insulting another’s looks, putting others down. Of course there are also the good: compliments, sharing experiences, comforting touches, stepping up for someone else. But more often than not, a single insult burns more than a load of compliments can heal.
So I guess that is all the more reason to give out the ‘good’ less sparingly, isn’t it?
I hope so. And I genuinely hope people, including myself, will have more courage for the good.
(same video but watch from 10:21-11:28)
(see 5:06 onwards)